NEW YORK -- More than 200 protesters waving Polish flags and carrying signs with the Solidarity union emblem rallied outside the Polish consulate Sunday to protest the government crackdown in Poland.
'Russia has everything to do this,' said Irene Lasota, a leader of the student riots at Warsaw University in 1968 who has been jailed in Poland on several occasions for dissident activity.
'Poland will not perish as long as we are alive,' said Ms. Lasota, wearing a Solidarity arm band. The phrase is the first part of the Polish national anthem.
'Sadness, grief, anger,' Alfred Znamierowski said simply as he marched in what soon became a block-long demonstration outside the Polish government consulate in midtown Manhattan.
Znamierowski and other Polish immigrants carrying signs proclaiming 'Long Live Solidarity!' and 'Brezhnev Leave Poland Alone!,' chanted anti-government slogans in English and Polish outside the consulate.
The government declared martial law in Poland Sunday following a midnight raid on the Solidarity union headquarters. Dissidents were threatened with severe punishment and trade union activity was banned.
A handful of protesters swelled to several hundred within an hour of the start of the protest at noon and police sealed off the block near the consulate at 37th Street between Madison and Park avenues.
At one point, the group lunged towards police officers who removed a white banner with the word 'Solidarnosc' printed in red from the consulate building.
But the group retreated when police handed the long banner back to several protesters.
Most of the protesters expressed disdain for the communist regime and said they felt the Soviet Union was behind the latest action.
Radoslaw Cerwinski, 10, of Ozone Park, Queens, marched in freezing temperatures with his mother, Alice, and grandmother.
'We want Brezhnev down!,' he said, giving the thumbs down signal with his gloved hands.
Mrs. Cerwinski, born and raised in Poland before coming here 15 years ago, burst into tears when she told of friends and relatives still in Poland that are involved in the Solidarity movement.
'It's terrible. They're in trouble -- arrested,' she said, turning away and grabbing her son's hand to re-join the protest.
In the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn, a mostly Polish neighborhood, the Rev. John Harchula said Sunday services focused on the crisis in Poland.
'We prayed for Poland this morning,' he said. It was very emotional. Many of the congregation members broke down.'
Harchula, pastor of the Polish National Catholic Church of the Resurrection, was disturbed over the latest developments.
'I'm very, very sorry that it came to this. I just came back from Poland three months ago, and you could feel that the steam kettle was about to blow,' he said.
'It hurts me. I was born here, but I have strong ties with Poland. I've been there 14 times since 1967 -- said masses for the people there. You can't imagine how much I feel for the country.'